Friday, July 17, 2015

The Lord's Day Cometh

A normal rhythm of the Christian life, if we allow it, is 1 in 7.  Every week, we have before us a chance to Sabbath in our Lord and assemble on the Lord's Day in the light of His resurrection.  There is much talk today about how to "do" church.  Many people focus on "how-to" strategies aimed at growing a church, or desire to minimize certain elements and maximize others.  I have been profoundly benefitted from reflection upon what the Bible calls the church to be.  Having grown up in church, served in churches as early as High School and college, and entered ministry right out of college, I have been exposed to a variety of church "styles" and "types".  But in the end, the Lord's pattern for the church is laid out clearly in Scripture if we are willing to in faith, believe that the Word is our best guide for the church.  How do we think weekly about each approaching Lord's Day?  A few thoughts:

Rhythm:  The Lord has given a one in seven pattern for us to follow since creation.  Sabbath rest, ultimately realized in our eschatological rest in Christ, is a rhythm that is given to us for our good (Mark 2).  This pre-Sinai pattern also teaches about our God, and His own pattern that He has revealed to us at creation.  The early church, because of the resurrection of Jesus, observed Sabbath together on the first day of the week, and weekly celebrated the ultimate eschatological rest through the the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This God-given rhythm, although having a change in which day it was to be observed, has not been rescinded (Heb 4), but has been given greater understanding.  We need this rhythm.  We need a day of God-centered devotion and rest, where we remove the requirements and distractions of the other 6 days out of our hearts, minds and physical focus, and we rest in our Lord.  And on this day, the church assembles together (Rev. 1:10).  "Keeping the sabbath holy" is not a burden, but a delight to borrow Walt Chantry's verbiage.

Food:  The ordinary means of grace, specifically the Word and the Table, are the food the Lord uses.  We live in a day when so many minimize these things, and church diets...the spiritual diets of believers, are junk food.  The minimizing of preaching, the lackadaisical use of the table, either in frequency or in the lack of intentionality, has left people starving for the food of the Lord.  Why would we not want to regularly gather at the table of the Lord as He is spiritually present with His people by the Holy Spirit, nourishing them in the benefits of His accomplished work?  What skit, video presentation, or state of the art building can hold a candle to that?  And the amazing thing is that He has told us in His Word to focus on these things--these means of grace.

Structure:  Biblical church government/polity and membership are crucial forms of fencing.  Given that the New Covenant is an unbreakable covenant, the church is to be made up of professing believers.  These believers, duly baptized, recipients of the sign of the covenant of grace, are gathered together with under-shepherds into a community of discipleship, accountability, and mutual joys and sorrows (Gal 6).  We live in a day when a biblical ecclesiology is lacking, and many assume that it really doesn't matter.  We just think "let's just preach the gospel",  but why would we discard the Lord's instructions on "how to gather" as we do?  Hebrews 4 (Sabbath) and Hebrews 10:25 (assembling) go together as the best mixture--the New Testament knows nothing of Sabbath without assembling.  The regular gathering of the church, duly constituted, is crucial in the life of the believer.

So often when I sit to give spiritual counsel to a weary person who professes Christ, some component in the three given above is missing, or is askew.  Not every problem will be solved by just having the above three things in order, but so often, one of more of these three things in lacking in a believer's life.  So, how do we think about this coming Lord's Day approaching?  I now look forward with eager expectation to the Lord's "Sabbathing" in Christ.  I think in advance about how He will feed His people through His Word preached and in His Word made visible (sacraments).  The Lord has changed how I focus on these things, and as a result, my life has been enriched.  Prayer, while not the main focus of this post, is also a means the Lord uses in the life of the believer...a means, which too many of us, myself included, don't utilize as we could.

Friend, we have a wonderful one in seven rhythm given to us by the Lord.  We should not only not neglect the assembling of believers (Heb 10), but we should look to the coming Lord's Day as a reminder of weekly nourishment.  The ministry of the Word, Sacraments and prayer along with biblical church membership and government are the food and fence that the Lord uses to lead His sheep in green pastures in a weekly rhythm of grace until they are safely home.  It is now a few days until the next Lord's day.  If I have breath a few days from now, I will, Lord willing, be pleased to gather with the saints, feed on the Word, rest together and individually in Him, and look toward heaven's shore--what a gift He has given to us...